Mark 5
Calvin's Commentaries
And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.

Matthew 8:28-34

Mark 5:1-20

Luke 8:26-39

28. And when he had come to the opposite bank, [542] into the country of the Gergesenes, two demoniacs, who had come from among the tombs, met him: and they were fierce beyond measure, so that no man could pass along that road. 29. And, lo, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, Son of God? Hast thou come hither before the time to torment us? 30. And at a distance from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. 31. And the devils entreated him, saying, If thou cast us out, permit us to remove into the herd of swine. 32. And he said to them, Go. And when they had gone out, they went away into the heard of swine. And, lo, the whole herd was carried headlong into the sea, and perished in the waters. 33. And those who had the charge of them fled; and going away into the city, they related all things, and what had happened to the demoniacs, 34. And, lo, the whole city went out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they entreated him, that he would depart from their territories.

1. And having crossed the sea, they came into the country of Gaderanes. 2. And when he left the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man possessed by an unclean spirit, 3. Who had a dwelling among the tombs, [543] and no man could bind him, not even with chains: 4. Because frequently, when he had been bound with fetters and chains, the chains were torn asunder by him, and the fetters were broken in pieces, so that no man could tame him. 5. And always, day and night, he was in the mountains, and among the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. 6. And when he saw Jesus at a distance, he ran and worshipped him: 7. And, crying with a loud voice, he said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure thee by God, that thou do not torment me. 8. For he said to him, Go out of the man, unclean spirit. 9. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying to him, My name is Legion: for there are many. 10. And he entreated him earnestly, that he would not send him out of the country. 11. And there was there, near the mountains, a great herd of swine feeding. 12. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. 13. And immediately Jesus permitted them. And the unclean spirit having gone out, entered into the swine, and the herd was carried headlong into the sea: and they were about two thousand, and were choked in the sea. 14. Then those who tended the swine fled, and told it in the city and in the fields. And they went out to see what it was that had happened. 15. And they come to Jesus, and see the demoniac who had had the Legion, sitting and clothed, and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16. And those who had seen, related how it had happened to the demoniac, and concerning the swine. 17. And they began to request him to depart from their territories. 18. And when he entered into a ship, he who had been possessed by a devil besought him that he might be with him. 19. But Jesus did not permit him: but said to him, Go to thy home, to thy friends, and relate to them how great things God hath done to thee, and hath pitied thee. 20. And he went away, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all wondered.

26. And they sailed to the country of the Gaderenes, which is opposite to Galilee. 27. And when he had gone out of the ship into the land, there met him a certain man out of the city, who had devils for along time, and wore no clothes, and did not dwell in a house, but among the tombs. 28. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, [544] and said with a loud voice, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beseech thee, do not torment me. 29. For he was commanding the unclean spirit to go out of the man: for many times it had seized him, and he was bound by chains, and kept in fetters, and he broke the chains, and was driven by the devil into the deserts. 30. And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: for many devils had entered into him. 31. And they entreated him that he would not command them to go into the deep. 32. And there was there a herd of many swine feeding on the mountains, and they requested him to permit them to enter into them: and he permitted them. 33. And the devils going out of the man entered into the swine, and the herd ran violently down headlong into the lake, and were choked. 34. And when those who tended them saw what was done, they fled, and told it in the city and in the villages. 35. And they went out [545] to see what was done, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the devils and had gone out, clothed, and in his right mind, at the feet of Jesus; and they were afraid. 36. And those who had seen, related to them how the demoniac had been cured. 37. And the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes besought him to depart from them: for they were seized with a great fear; and he went up into the ship, and returned back again. 38. And the man out of whom the devils had departed requested to be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39. Return to thy house, and relate what things God hath done to thee. [546] And he went away through the whole city proclaiming what thing Jesus had done to him.

The error of those who think that Mark and Luke relate a different miracle from this, has been already refuted. It is the same country which was opposite, as Luke expressly states, to Galilee, that is described by the three Evangelists, and all the circumstances agree. Who then will believe that the same things, so fully coincident at all points, happened at different times?

Matthew 8:28 Two demoniacs met him Commentators have been led into the error of separating Matthew's narrative from that of the others by this single difference, that he mentions two, while the others mention but one. There is probability in the conjecture of Augustine, who thinks that there were two, but accounts for not more than one being mentioned here by saying, that this one was more generally known, and that the aggravation of his disease made the miracle performed on him the more remarkable. And, indeed, we see that Luke and Mark employ many words in describing the extraordinary rage of the devil, so as to make it evident that the wretched man, of whom they speak, was grievously fomented. The circumstance of their holding up to commendation one singular instance of Christ's divine power is not inconsistent with the narrative of Matthew, in which another, though less known man, [547] is also mentioned.

Luke 8:26. There met him a certain man out of the city It is uncertain whether Luke means that he was a citizen of Gadara, or that he came out of it to meet Christ. For, when he was ordered to go home and proclaim among his friends the grace of God, Mark says, that he did this in Decapolis, which was a neighboring country stretching towards Galilee; and hence it is conjectured that he was not a native of Gadara. Again, Matthew and Mark expressly state that he did not go out of the city, but from the tombs, and Luke himself, throughout the whole passage, gives us to understand that the man lived in solitary places. These words, therefore, there met him a certain man out of the city, I understand to mean, that, before Christ came near the city, the demoniac met him in that direction.

As to the opinion that the man dwelt among the graves, either because devils are delighted with the stench of dead bodies, or gratified by the smell of oblations, or because they watch over souls which are desirous to approach their bodies; it is an idle, and, indeed, a foolish conjecture. On the contrary, this wretched man was kept among the graves by an unclean spirit, that he might have an opportunity of terrifying him continually with the mournful spectacle of death, as if he were cut off from the society of men, and already dwelt among the dead. We learn from this also that the devil does not only torment men in the present life, but pursues them even to death, and that in death his dominion over them is chiefly exercised.

Mark 5:3. And no man could bind him, not even with chains Naturally, he was not able to break the chains; and hence we infer that Satan is sometimes permitted to make extraordinary movements, the effect of which goes beyond our comprehension and beyond ordinary means. We often perceive in madmen much greater strength than belongs to their natural capacity; and we are not at liberty to deny that, in such cases, the devil does his part when God permits him: but the force, which is described by the Evangelists, was far greater. [548] It was indeed a sad and shocking exhibition, but may serve to remind us how wretched and alarming it is to be placed under the tyranny of Satan, and also that bodily agony, however violent or cruel, is not more to be dreaded than distress of mind.

Mark 5:6 Worshipped him [549] The arrangement of the narrative may be thus stated. When the demoniacs came to meet him, Christ ordered the unclean spirits to go out of them, and then they prayed and entreated that he would not torment them before the time The worship, therefore, did not precede Christ's words: nor did they complain that Christ gave them uneasiness, [550] till he urged them to go out. We ought to be aware that they did not come of their own accord into the presence of Christ, but were drawn by a secret exercise of his authority. As they had formerly been accustomed to carry men off, in furious violence, to the tombs, so now a superior power compels them to appear reluctantly at the tribunal of their judge.

Hence we infer, that the whole of Satan's kingdom is subject to the authority of Christ. [551] For the devils, when Christ summons them to appear before him, are not more at their own disposal than were the wretched men whom their tyranny was wont to drive about in every direction. At length, by the secret power of Christ, they are dragged before him, that, by casting them out, he may prove himself to be the deliverer of men. Reluctantly too they worship him, and their rebellious complaints testify that their confession was not made from choice, but was drawn from them by force.

Matthew 8:29. What have we to do with thee? Willingly would they, by this word, drive him far from them. But when they see that they are held under restraint, and that it is in vain for them to decline his authority, they complain that they are tormented before the time, and likewise mingle entreaty. Thus we see that the devils breathe nothing but rebellion against God; and yet, with all their swelling pride, they are crushed and fall in a moment: for their malice and obstinacy, which is never subdued, ceases not to struggle against the government of God, and yet it is compelled to yield.

Christ does not openly reject, as he did on other occasions, the confession of the devil; and the reason appears to be, that their enmity towards him was so manifest, as to remove every opportunity of unfavorable or calumnious imputation. Besides, Christ paid regard to the spectators. Accordingly, when malicious and wicked men were present, he was more eager to repress calumnies, and more inclined to put a severe restraint on devils. On the present occasion, it was quite enough that the devils, while they were offering a prayer and entreaty, raged and stormed against him.

Hast thou come hither before the time to torment us? Some explain this kind of torment as consisting in their being compelled to set at absolute liberty the man whom they possessed. Others understand it as referring to the last day of judgment. My view of it is, that they trembled in the presence of their Judge, while they thought of their punishment: for, though Christ said nothing, [552] a bad conscience told them what they deserved. As criminals, when they come to the judgment-seat, expect their punishment, so devils and all wicked men must tremble at the sight of God, as truly as if they already experienced hell, the unquenchable fire, and the torments that await them. Now, the devils knew that Christ was the Judge of the world; and therefore we need not wonder that the sight of him impressed them with dread of immediate torment.

Were they acquainted with the day of the last judgment? This question, which some have proposed, is uncalled for. What, then, is the meaning of the phrase, before the time? It means that the reprobate never reckon that the time for punishing them is fully come: for they would willingly delay it from day to day. [553] Any measure of delay, which the Lord is pleased to allow them, is counted gain; and thus by subterfuges they endeavor to avoid his sentence, though the attempt is to no purpose.

Mark 5:9 My name is Legion. The devil was compelled by Christ to pronounce this word, that he might more fully display the greatness and excellence of his grace. There must have been good reasons why this man should have endured so severe a punishment as to have an army of devils, so to speak, dwelling within him. What compassion then was it, to rescue from so many deaths a man who was more than a thousand times ruined! It was a magnificent display of the power of Christ., that by his voice not one devil, but a great multitude of devils, were suddenly driven out. Legion denotes here not a definite number of men, but merely a great multitude.

Hence it is evident what a wretched creature man is, when he is deprived of the divine protection. Every man is not only exposed to a single devil, but becomes the retreat of vast numbers. This passage refutes also the common error, which has been borrowed by Jews and Christians from the heathens, that every man is attacked by his own particular devil? On the contrary, Scripture plainly declares, that, just as it pleases God, one devil [554] is sometimes sent to punish a whole nation, and at other times many devils are permitted to punish one man: as, on the other hand, one angel sometimes protects a whole nation, and every man has many angels to act as his guardians. There is the greater necessity for keeping diligent watch, lest so great a multitude of enemies should take us by surprise.

Mark 5:10. And entreated him earnestly Luke says, they requested that they might not be sent into the deep Some explain these words to mean that they wished to avoid uninhabited places. [555] I rather view it as referring to their rage for doing mischief. As the devils have no other object than to prowl among men, like lions in search of prey, they are grieved at being plunged into the deep, where they will have no opportunity of injuring and ruining men. That this is the true meaning may be inferred from the words of Mark, who says that they requested that they might not be compelled to go out of the country In a word, they manifest their disposition to be such, that there is nothing which they more eagerly desire than the destruction of mankind.

Matthew 8:31. Permit us to depart into the herd of swine Some conjecture that they wished to attack the swine, because they are filled with enmity to all God's creatures. I do admit it to be true, that they are entirely bent on confounding and overthrowing the whole order of nature which God has appointed. But it is certain that they had a more remote object in view, to excite the inhabitants of that country to curse God on account of the loss of the swine. When the devil thunders against Job's house, he does so not from any hatred he bears to timber or stones, but in order that the good man, through impatience at suffering loss, may break out against God. Again, when Christ consents, he does not listen to their prayers, but chooses to try in this manner what sort of people the Gadarenes are. Perhaps, too, it is to punish their crimes that he grants to the devils so much power over their swine. While the reason of it is not known by us with certainty, it is proper for us to behold with reverence and to adore with devout humility, the hidden judgment of God. This passage shows also the foolish trifling of some irreligious men, who imagine that the devils are not actually existing spirits, but merely the depraved affections of men: for how could covetousness, ambition, cruelty, and deceit, enter into the swine? Let us learn also, that unclean spirits (as they are devoted to destruction) are the enemies of mankind; so that they plunge all whom they can into the same destruction with themselves.

Mark 5:15. And they come to Jesus We have here a striking proof that not all who perceive the hand of God profit as they ought to do by yielding themselves to him in sincere godliness. Having seen the miracle, the Gadarenes were afraid, because the majesty of God shone brightly in Christ. So far they did right but now that they send him out of their territories, what could have been done worse than this? They too were scattered, and here is a shepherd to collect them or rather, it is God who stretches out his arms, through his Son, to embrace and carry to heaven those who were overwhelmed by the darkness of death. They choose rather to be deprived of the salvation which is offered to them, than to endure any longer the presence of Christ.

The apparent ground of their offense is the loss of the swine, but Luke assigns a loftier cause, that they were seized with a great fear; [556] and certainly, if they had been exasperated by the loss which they sustained, they would not have requested him, but would rudely have driven him out. They honor him as God's minister, and yet are so struck with dread as to desire that he will go to a distance from them. Thus we see that they were not at all moved by a sense of the divine grace. And indeed, though all wicked men adore God, and bestow great pains on appeasing him, yet if they had their choice, they would withdraw to the greatest possible distance from him: for his face is terrible, so long as they contemplate him as a Judge, and not as a Father. The consequence is, that the gospel, which is more delightful than any thing that can be conceived, is everywhere considered to be so dismal and severe, that a good part of the world would wish that it were buried.

And yet it is true that their fear was partly occasioned by their loss. Thus at the present day, so long as men believe that the kingdom of God is opposed to their interest, either of a public or private nature, they are prepossessed by a depraved and carnal fear, and have no relish for his grace. Accordingly, when he comes, they think that God does not regard them with favor, but rather with anger, and, so far as lies in their power, they send him to another place. It is a mark of shameful insensibility in those men, that the loss of their swine gives them more alarm than the salvation of their soul would give them joy.

Luke 8:38. And the men requested The Gadarenes cannot endure to have Christ among them but he who has been delivered from the devil is desirous to leave his own country and follow him. Hence we learn how wide is the difference between the knowledge of the goodness, and the knowledge of the power, of God. Power strikes men with terror, makes them fly from the presence of God, and drives them to a distance from him: but goodness draws them gently, and makes them feel that nothing is more desirable than to be united to God. Why Christ refuses to have this man as one of his followers we cannot determine with certainty, if it was not that he expected the man to make himself more extensively useful by communicating to his Gentile countrymen the remarkable and extraordinary act of kindness which he had received; and this he actually did, as we are assured by Mark and Luke.

39. Relate those things which God hath done for thee. He bids him relate not his own work, but the work of God His design in doing so is, that he may be acknowledged to be the true minister and prophet of God, and may thus acquire authority in teaching. In this gradual manner it was proper to instruct an ignorant people who were not yet acquainted with his divinity. Though Christ is the ladder by which we ascend to God the Father, yet, as he was not yet fully manifested, he begins with the Father, till a fitter opportunity occurred.

We must now add the symbolical meaning. [557] In the person of one man Christ has exhibited to us "proof of his grace" which is extended to all mankind. Though we are not tortured by the devil, yet he holds us as his slaves, [558] till the Son of God delivers us from his tyranny. [559] Naked, torn, and disfigured, we wander about, [560] till he restores us to soundness of mind. It remains that, in magnifying his grace, we testify our gratitude.


[542] "Et quarid il fur passd outre, ou a l'autre rive, cornme au verset 18;" -- "and when he had passed beyond, or to the other bank, as at v.18."

[543] "Lequel faisoit sa demeurance;" -- "who made his dwelling."

[544] "Il se jetta devant luy;" -- "he threw himself down before him."

[545] "Ainsi les gens sortirent pour voir;" -- "so the peoplo went out to see."

[546] "Raconte combien grandes choses Dieu t'a faitcs;" -- "relate how great things God hath done to thee."

[547] "Combien qu'il ne lust pas rant eognu que le premier;" -- "though he was not so well known as the former."

[548] "Mais l'effort et la violence que les Evangelistes deserlvent estoit bien autre et plus grande;" -- "but the effort and the violence, which the Evangelists describe, was quite different and much greater."

[549] "S'enclina devant luy;" -- "kneeled down before him."

[550] "Et ils ne se sont point plainds que Christ les tormentast, sinon quand il les pressoit de sortir;" -- "and they did not complain that Christ tormented them, till he urged them to go out."

[551] "Que tout le regne de Satan est tenu en bride sous la domination de Christ;" -- "that all the kingdom of Satan is kept in check under the government of Christ."

[552] "Sans que Christ ouvrist sa bouche;" -- "without Christ opening his mouth."

[553] "Ils voudroyent bien tousjours prolonger leur terme;" -- "they would always choose to prolong their time.

[554] "A scavoir que chacun hornroe ha son diable et son mauvals ange qui lui fait la guerre;" -- "namely, that each man has his devil and his evil angel who makes war with him."

[555] "Ce qu'aucuns exposent comme si les diables n'eussent point voulu aller en lieu desert;" -- "which some explain as if the devils did not wish to go into a desert place."

[556] " 'Ephobethesan, they were afraid, (Mark 5:15,) is by most Commentators understood of fear lest they might suffer a yet greater calamity; but it rather denotes awe at the stupendous miracle." -- Bloomfield

[557] Nunc addenda est anagoge. -- "Maintenant il rested adjouster la deduction ou derivation;" -- "it now remains to add the inference or remoter instruction." -- The word anagoge, or rather anagoge was technically employed by divines of the allegorizing school to denote the mystical meaning, which was the last and most recondite, as the literal was the first and most obvious, of the various meanings which they supposed to be contained in every verse of the Bible. Never did those men encounter a more zealous or more formidable opponent than Calvin. But, while he manfully sets his face against all that is mystical, when it can plead no higher authority than the ravings of a wild imagination, he is equally careful that those instructions which are indicated, though not directly conveyed, by the sacred writers, shall receive due consideration. He lays down as a general principle, which he endeavors to support by the word of God, that the cures of bodily diseases, performed by our Lord and his apostles, were intended to be symbolical of the removal of spiritual diseases by the power and grace of the Great Physician. Seldom does he close his illustration of one of those miracles without adverting to the loftier and more important occasions on which the arm of the Deliverer will put forth its strength. It is to this symbolical meaning that Calvin, under the word anagoge, borrowing the language, but disavowing the principles, of an ancient school, now proceeds to draw the attention of his reader. The grounds of his opinion it were foreign to our purpose to examine, but we have judged it necessary to append this note, in order to bring out clearly what the Author means. -- Ed.

[558] "Toutesfois nous luy sommes serfs et esclaves;" -- "yet we are his serfs and slaves."

[559] "De la tyrannic malheureuse d'iceluy;" -- "from his unhappy tyranny."

[560] "Nous ne raisons que trainer ca et la estans nuds, deschirez, et dis- figurez;" -- "we do but drag along here and there, being naked, torn, and disfigured."

And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:
Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.
And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.
But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,
And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.
For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.
And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.
And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.
Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.
And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.
And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.
And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.
And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.
And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.
And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.
And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him.
Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.
And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.
And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh unto the sea.
And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,

Matthew 9:18-22

Mark 5:22-34

Luke 8:40-48

18. While he was speaking these things to them, a certain ruler came, and worshipped him, [526] saying, My daughter is now dead; but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she will live. 19. And Jesus arose, and followed him, and likewise his disciples, 20. And, lo, a woman, who had been afflicted with a bloody flux for twelve years came behind him, and touched the tuft of his cloak: 21. For she said within herself, If I shall only touch his cloak, I shall be cured. 22. But Jesus turned round, and, when he saw her, he said, Take courage, my daughter; thy faith hath cured thee. And the woman was cured from that time.

22. And, lo, one of the rulers of the synagogue, by name Jarius, came: and when he had seen him, he fell at his feet. 23. And he besought him earnestly, saying, My daughter is at the point of death: I entreat that thou wilt come, and lay thy hands upon her, that she may be cured, and she shall live. 24. And Jesus went away with him: and a great multitude followed him, and they pressed upon him. 25. And a certain woman, who had been subject to a bloody flux for twelve years, 26. And had suffered much from many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and had not at all recovered, but had rather grown worse, 27. When she had heard of Jesus, came in the crowd behind him, and touched his cloak. 28. For she said, If I shall touch but his cloak, I shall be cured. 29. And immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she had been delivered from the scourge. 30. And Jesus suddenly knowing in himself that power had gone out from him, turned round in the crowd, and said, Who touched my clothes? 31. And his disciples said to him, Thou seest the crowd on all sides pressing upon thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? 32. And he looked around to see her who who had done this. 33. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had been done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. 34. And he said to her, Daughter, thy faith hath cured thee: go in peace, and be delivered from thy scourge.

40. And it happened, while Jesus was returning, the multitude received him: for they were all waiting for him. 41. And, lo, a man came, whose name was Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue, and fell at the feet of Jesus, beseeching him to enter into his house. 42. For he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. But while he was going, the multitudes pressed upon him. 43 And a woman, who had been subject to a bloody flux for twelve years, who had spent all her substance on physicians, and could not be cured by an one, 44. Approached behind, and touched the tuft of his cloak, and immediately her issue of blood was stopped. 45. And Jesus said, Who is it that touched me? And while all were denying, Peter, and those who were with him, said, Master, the multitudes press upon and distress thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? 46. And Jesus said, Some person hath touched me: for I know that power hath gone out form me. 47. And the woman seeing that she was not concealed, came trembling, and fell down before his feet, and told him before all the people for what reason she had touched him, and in what manner she had been immediately cured. 48. And he said to her, Take courage, my daughter: thy faith hath cured; go in peace.

Matthew 9:18. While he was speaking these things to them. Those who imagine that the narrative, which is here given by Mark and Luke, is different from that of Matthew, are so clearly refuted by the passage itself, that there is no necessity for a lengthened debate. All the three agree in saying that Christ was requested by a ruler of the synagogue to enter his house for the purpose of curing his daughter The only difference is, that the name of Jairus, which is withheld by Matthew, is mentioned by Mark and Luke; and that he represents the father as saying, My daughter is dead, while the other two say that she was in her last moments, and that, while he was bringing Christ, her death was announced to him on the road. But there is no absurdity in saying that Matthew, studying brevity, merely glances at those particulars which the other two give in minute detail. But since all the other points agree with such exactness, since so many circumstances conspire as to give it the appearance of three fingers stretched out at the same time to point out a single object, there is no argument that would justify us in dividing this history into various dates. The Evangelists agree in relating, that while Christ, at the request of a ruler of the synagogue, was coming to his house, a woman on the road was secretly cured of a bloody flux by touching his cloak; and that afterwards Christ came into the ruler's house, and raised a dead young woman to life. There is no necessity, I think, for circuitous language to prove that all the three relate the same event. Let us now come to details.

Lo, a certain ruler. Though it is evident from the other two, that his confidence had not advanced so far as to hope that his daughter's life could be restored, there is no room to doubt that, after having been reproved by Christ, he entertained a stronger hope than when he left his house. But Matthew, as we have said, studies brevity, and puts down at the very beginning of his narrative what took place at various times. The manner in which the history must be arranged is this: Jairus first requested that his daughter might be cured of her disease, and afterwards that she might be restored from death to life; that is, after that Christ had given him courage to do so. Worship, or adoration, is here put for kneeling, as is evident from the words of Mark and Luke: for Jairus did not render divine honor to Christ, [527] but treated him with respect as a prophet of God; and we all know how common a practice kneeling was among eastern nations.

Come and lay thy hand. We have here a bright mirror in which the divine condescension towards us is beheld. If you compare the ruler of the synagogue with the centurion, who was a heathen, (Matthew 8:5-10,) you will say that the full brightness of faith shone in the centurion, while scarcely the smallest portion of it was visible in the ruler He ascribes to Christ no power except through his touching the person; and, when he has received information of her death, he trembles as if there were no farther remedy. We see, then, that his faith was feeble and nearly exhausted. Yet Christ yields to his prayers, and encourages him to expect a favorable result, and thus proves to us that his faith, however small it might be, was not wholly rejected. Though we have not such abundance of faith as might be desired, there is no reason why our weakness should drive away or discourage us from prayer.

20. And, lo, a woman who had been afflicted with a bloody flux. For twelve successive years the bloody flux had lasted, and the woman was so far from being negligent in seeking remedies, that she had spent all her substance on physicians All this is expressly stated by the Evangelists, that the miracle may shine with brighter glory. When an incurable disease was removed so suddenly, and by the mere touch of a garment, it is perfectly obvious that it was not accomplished by human power. The thought of the woman that, if she only touched Christ's garment, she would immediately be cured, arose from an extraordinary impulse of the Holy Spirit, and ought not to be regarded as a general rule. We know how eagerly superstition is wont to sport in foolish and thoughtless attempts to copy the saints; but they are apes, and not imitators, who take up some remarkable example without the command of God, and are led rather by their own senses than by the direction of the Spirit.

It is even possible that there was a mixture of sin and error in the woman's faith, which Christ graciously bears and forgives. Certainly, when she afterwards thinks that she has done wrong, and fears and trembles, there is no apology for that kind of doubt: for it is opposed to faith. Why did she not rather go straight to Christ? If her reverence for him prevented, from what other source than from his mercy did she expect aid? How comes it, then, that she is afraid of offending him, if she was convinced of his favorable regard?

Yet Christ bestows high commendation on her faith. This agrees with what I have lately noticed, that God deals kindly and gently with his people, -- accepts their faith, though imperfect and weak, -- and does not lay to their charge the faults and imperfections with which it is connected. It was by the guidance of faith, therefore, that the woman approached to Christ. When she stopped at the garment, instead of presenting herself in prayers that she might be cured, inconsiderate zeal may have drawn her a little aside from the right path; particularly as she soon afterwards shows that she had made the attempt with some degree of doubt and uncertainty. Were we even to grant that this was suggested to her by the Spirit, it still remains a fixed rule, that our faith must not be driven hither and thither by particular examples, but ought to rest wholly on the word of God, according to the saying of Paul, Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, (Romans 10:17.) This is a highly necessary warning, that we may not dignify with the name of faith any opinion which has been rashly embraced.

Luke 8:45. Who is it that touched me, Mark expresses it still more clearly, when he says that Christ looked around to see who she was. It does appear to be absurd that Christ should pour out his grace without knowing on whom he was bestowing a favor. There is not less difficulty in what he shortly afterwards says, that he perceived that power had gone out from him: as if, while it flowed from him, it was not a free gift bestowed at those times, and on those persons, whom he was pleased to select. Beyond all question, he knowingly and willingly cured the woman; and there is as little doubt that he drew her to himself by his Spirit, that she might obtain a cure: but he puts the question to her, that she may freely and publicly make it known. If Christ had been the only witness of his miracle, his statements might not perhaps have been believed: but now, when the woman, struck with dread, relates what happened to her, greater weight is due to her confession.

Matthew 9:22. Take courage, my daughter. This expression shows the weakness of her faith for, had there been no impropriety in her trembling, Christ would not have corrected it by exhorting her to take courage Yet, at the same time, he commends her faith; and this supports the view which I have already stated, that, while she sought Christ by the guidance of the Spirit, and from a sincere and pious desire, she hesitated in such a manner as to need to be strengthened. Thus we see that faith, in order to please God, needs forgiveness, and is at the same time sustained by new aid, that it may acquire additional strength. We may here draw a comparison from the health of the body to that of the soul: for, as Christ says that the woman's deliverance from her disease was the consequence of her faith, so it is certain, that we obtain by faith the forgiveness of sins, which reconciles us to God.

Mark 5:34. Go in peace, and be delivered from thy scourge. From this exhortation we infer that the benefit which she had obtained was fully ratified, when she heard from the lips of Christ what she had already learned from experience: for we do not truly, or with a safe conscience, enjoy God's benefits in any other way than by possessing them as contained in the treasury of his promises.


[526] "Lequel s'enclina devant lui;" -- "who bowed down before him."

[527] "Car Jairus ne pretendoit pas d'attribuer a Christ un honneur appar-tenant a la majeste Divine;" -- "for Jairus did not profess to ascribe to Christ an honor belonging to the Divine majesty."

And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.
And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.
And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.
But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?

Matthew 9:23-26

Mark 5:35-43

Luke 8:49-56

23. And when Jesus came into the house of the ruler, and saw the musicians and the multitude making a noise, 24. He saith to them, Withdraw: for the young woman is not dead, but sleepeth: and they ridiculed him. 25. And when the multitude was put out, he entered and took hold of her hand, and the girl arose. 26. And this report spread into all that country.

35. While he is still speaking, there come from the ruler of the synagogue persons who say, Thy daughter is dead: why dost thou trouble the Master any farther? 36. And immediately on hearing the word which was said, he saith to the ruler of the synagogue, Fear not, only believe. 37. And he did not permit any one to follow him, except Peter, and James, and John the brother of James 38. And he came into the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw the tumult, and persons who wept and lamented much. 39. And he entered, and said to them, Why do you vex yourselves and lament? the girl is not dead, but sleepeth. 40. And they ridiculed him. But, having put them all out, he taketh the father and mother of the girl, and those who were with him, and entereth where the girl is lying. 41. And he took hold of the hand of the girl, and said to her, Talitha-cumi: which is, if one interpret it, Girl, I say to thee, Arise. 42. And immediately the girl arose, and walked: for she was twelve years of age. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. 43. And he charged them earnestly, that no man should know it: and commanded them to give her something to eat.

49. While he was still speaking, one came from the house of the ruler of the synagogue, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead, do not trouble the Master. 50. But Jesus, having heard this, replied to the ruler, saying, Fear not, only believe, and she shall be cured. 51. And when he came into the house, he did not permit any one to enter, except Peter, and James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. 52. And all were weeping and bewailing her. But he said, Weep not: she is not dead, but sleepeth. 53. And they ridiculed him, knowing that she was dead. 54. And he having put them all out, took hold of her hand, and cried out, saying, Girl, arise. 55. And her spirit returned, and she immediately arose: and he commanded to give her something to eat. 56. And her parents were astonished: but he charged them to tell no man what had been done.

Mark 5:36. Fear not, only believe. The message about her death had induced despair: for he had asked nothing from Christ but relief to the diseased young woman. Christ therefore bids him take care lest, by fear or distrust, he shut out that grace, to which death will be no hindrance. By this expression, only believe, he means that he will not want power, provided Jairus will allow him; and, at the same time, exhorts him to enlarge his heart with confidence, because there is no room to fear that his faith will be more extensive than the boundless power of God. And truly this is the case with us all: for God would be much more liberal in his communications to us, if we were not so close; but our own scanty desires hinder him from pouring out his gifts upon us in greater abundance. [528] In general, we are taught by this passage, that we cannot go beyond bounds in believing: because our faith, however large, will never embrace the hundredth part of the divine goodness.

37. And did not permit any one to follow him. He forbade that they should be allowed to enter, either because they were unworthy to be his witnesses of the miracle, or because he did not choose that the miracle should be overpowered by a noisy crowd around him. It was better that the young woman, whose dead body they had beheld, should suddenly go out before the eyes of men, alive and full of rigor. Mark and Luke tell us that not more than three of the disciples were admitted, and both mention also the parents. Mark alone states that those who had accompanied Jairus when he came to supplicate Christ were admitted. Matthew, who is more concise, takes no notice of this circumstance.

Luke 8:52. And all were weeping. The Evangelists mention the lamentation, that the resurrection may be more fully believed. Matthew expressly states that musicians were present, which was not usually the case till the death had been ascertained, and while the preparations for the funeral were going forward. The flute, he tells us, was heard in plaintive airs. Now, though their intention was to bestow this sort of honor on their dead, and as it were to adorn their grave, we see how strongly inclined the world is not only to indulge but to promote its faults. It was their duty to employ every method for allaying grief; but as if they had not sinned enough in disorderly lamentation, they are eager to heighten it by fresh excitements. The Gentiles even thought that this was a way of soothing departed spirits; and hence we see how many corruptions were at that time spread throughout Judea. [529]

Mark 5:39 The girl sleepeth. Sleep is everywhere in Scripture employed to denote death; and there is no doubt but this comparison, taken from temporal rest, points out a future resurrection. But here Christ expressly makes a distinction between sleep and death, so as to excite an expectation of life. His meaning is, "You will presently see her raised up whom you suppose to be dead." That he was ridiculed by thoughtless and ignorant people, who were wholly engrossed with profane lamentation, and who did not comprehend his design, ought not to awaken surprise. And yet this very circumstance was an additional confirmation of the miracle, that those persons entertained no doubt whatever as to her death.

41. And he took hold of her hand, and said to her Luke 8:54. And he took hold of her hand, and cried Though naturally this cry was of no avail for recalling the senses of the deceased young woman, yet Christ intended to give a magnificent display of the power of his voice, that he might more fully accustom men to listen to his doctrine. It is easy to learn from this the great efficacy of the voice of Christ, which reaches even to the dead, and exerts a quickening influence on death itself. Accordingly, Luke says that her spirit returned, or, in other words, that immediately on being called, it obeyed the command of Christ.

43. And he charged them Though Christ did not admit all indiscriminately to behold this resurrection, yet the miracle might not have remained long concealed. And it would indeed have been improper to suppress that power of God, by which the whole world ought to be prepared for life. Why then does he enjoin silence on the young woman's parents? Perhaps it was not so much about the fact itself, as about the manner of it, that he wished them to be silent, and that only for a time; for we see that there were other instances in which he sought out a proper occasion. Those who think that they were forbidden to speak for the purpose of whetting their desire, resort to a solution which is unnatural. I do acknowledge that Christ did not perform this miracle without the intention of making it known, but perhaps at a more fitting time, or after the dismission of a crowd among whom there was no prudence or moderation. He therefore intended to allow some delay, that they might in quietness and composure revolve the work of God.


[528] "Mais la petitesse, et (par maniere de dire) la chicete de nostre foy, l'empesche de faire decouler plus abondamment ses biens sur nous;" -- "But the smallness and (so to speak) the niggardliness of our faith, hinders him from making his benefits flow more abundantly on us."

[529] "Dont nous pouvons recueillir comment le pays de Judee estoit lots reinply de beaucoup de corruptions, et diverses sortes d'abus;" -- "whence we may infer how much the country of Judea was then filled with many corruptions, and various sorts of abuses."

As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.
And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.
And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.
And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.
And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.
And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.
And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.
John Calvin's Commentaries
Text Courtesy of Christian Classics Etherial Library.

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